First published 01 October 2010 on Liquorature.
This deep-throated bellowing maniac of a rum does almost nothing well – but one thing so grandly it borders on Van Gogh-level insanity: it hits you in the face. A lot. Welcome to the lost week of your life.
Even in the world of lesser rums, there is such a thing as subtlety…a whiff of class, or style, be it ever so humble. Bacardi, with this 151 proof beefcake, sneered long and loudly and stated flat out that they wanted no truck with that kind of pansy nonsense. They stayed as far away from the notion of class as they could, and made a popskull that reminds you of nothing so much as the liquid equivalent of a Tarantino movie, or a permanently pissed off ex-spouse packing an Uzi in either hand. The rum acts like Bacardi decided to build some kind of high test which jet engines can run on and set altitude records. It’s as if they let some mad scientist out of their chemistry lab and he went ape while unsupervised.
Bacardi 151 is absolutely not a for the weak. If you’re merely average, then make your will, alert your relatives that the possible cost of long term health care will be theirs, and ensure the insurance is paid up. Kiss your significant other tenderly one last time. If you’re still single, well, you may be in luck, ‘cause after a shot or ten of this massive ethanol delivery system, you will think just about any girl and maybe even the neighbor’s dog is fair game. And I have to state up front: with a rum this powerful, clear health advisories are in order. Do not drink while smoking, or when camping out and stoking the fire. The 151 is as flammable as hell: giving vent to a loud fart or indulging your propensity to bloviate may leave you as a rapidly decomposing burnt amoebic mess on the floor.
Because Bacardi 151 is quite simply, nuts. It blows out your sniffing nose at 500 hp and 8000 rpm, and when you’ve recovered breath, rediscovered your voice and stopped crying like a little girl, it thunders down your throat with a tonsil-ripping 600 ft-lbs of torque. Zero to drunk arrives in 2.5 shots – yeah, go ahead, try it – and that figure is only marginally exaggerated. Generations of insects will expire on your exhale, and professional flamethrowers will avoid you like the plague. Other drunks at the bar will only vaguely remember seeing a flash of alcohol fumes as your sobriety disappears over the horizon in a cloud of vaporized rum.
In between the waves of spirit and ethanol burns waft tantalizing hints of something warm and caramel like. Hey, if you don’t mind some suffering and try a second sniff or a real taste, you can probably pick out the molasses and the burnt sugar, plus – and I’m reaching here – vanilla (I was comforting my throat with EH25 and weeping into my wife’s shoulder a the time so my memories are a little hazy). But these are like bunny rabbits in a cane field of jaguars and have about as much chance: the 151 swiftly, efficiently and mercilessly hunts them down, eviscerates them with sharp ethanol claws and has them for lunch. You only think you noticed such warm and comforting scents and tastes before reality invades your fantasy and you are ravaged yet again.
Bacardi’s makers took a rum aged a minimum of one year, snickered into their mustaches, and distilled it to a whopping 75.5%. At that strength, it’s kind of irrelevant what kind of barrels they age it in…they could age it in my son’s potty with a diaper floating in it, and the next morning both diaper and potty would be gone. That also makes it one of a select few overproofs in the world today: their own 151 Dark, or the Stroh 80, Sunset Very Strong, the SMWS Longpond 9 year old 81.3% or poorer bastard cousins like the Wray & Nephew White Overproof (a mild 63%) or the Stroh 54 (at which you can just see Bacardi laughing hysterically whenever they name it). The company can, of course, indulge itself in such cheerfully infantile pursuits – selling more rum than just about every nation on the planet allows it to pretty much create anything they feel like.
Making this one, they may not have attempted to create a superrum. But for my money, they sure as hell gave birth to a rum like few others. Which probably means that, as with other overporoofs like the Stroh 80, you’re more likely to run out of bar patrons than a bottle of this stuff – or cojones, or whatever other words the Puerto Ricans use for “courageously stupid.” It’s not quite my thing and I’m not masochistic enough to try 151 on a consistent basis, however grudging an affection I may have for it: but that this rum exists at all is reason enough to admire it.
- The Bacardi 151 rum was discontinued in 2016 because health and safety issues (stupid people using it for stupid reasons) — this kept Bacardi in near constant litigation and finally they just got fed up and pulled the plug, though of course it remains available to be found on auctions and secondary markets to this day. Buzzfeed carried a humorous retrospective.
- This rum started a train of thought that culminated in a deep dive into the History of the 151 rums that was posted in 2020 (I had a more detailed section on Bacardi than this review allows), and a place of sorts in the list of Strongest Rums in the World, as part of the 151s entry.
[August 2021] Aside from being one of the strongest rums I had ever tried, and written about, the review here was and remains important (or at least, it marks a milestone of sorts) for one other reason: it was written almost entirely with a sense of humour lacking in the 36 reviews that preceded it. Those had the occasional funny sentence or witty phrase as part of the review, but in the main, they were pretty standard and sober little essays. Here, for the first time, I just let myself go from start to finish, and laughed my way through the whole thing, enjoying the writing process thoroughly. It was worth it for that alone, I think.
But the reactions of readers over the years has been uniformly positive, and demonstrated that one need not be a dry, serious, punctilious, pedantic writer all the time. One can simply enjoy the writing, the expression and the laughs (and isn’t that what rum is all about too?). And what that did was allow me, thereafter, the freedom to explore other modes of expression in writing reviews, whether serious, or lighthearted, using a first person narrative, a conversational tone, or even adding a biblical flavour. I may be in the minority on this one, but I think it made the overall body of work a lot richer and more enjoyable for average readers.